Walking into Huamei, a noodle and dim sum restaurant close to Shida night market, is like slipping through a time warp into a Qing Dynasty teahouse. Traditional Chinese lanterns emblazoned with butterfly patterns hang from the ceiling and set off the restaurant’s stylized wallpaper of bird and floral motifs in soft lavender and aquamarine. Patrons eat off vintage recessed wood tables, seated on high-backed chairs, to the soothing sounds of guzheng (古箏, Chinese zither) music emitted from a sound system.
Though only open for a couple of years, Huamei has earned somewhat of a cult following because of its old-world ambiance, but the restaurant’s rustic charm is not the only reason for a visit.
Noodles feature prominently on Huamei’s menu, which includes standards such as wonton noodles (NT$100) and beef noodles (NT$130) as well as the more obscure caramelized pig trotter noodles (NT$140) — all of which are served in large ceramic bowls.
I’ve eaten at Huamei on a number of occasions and strongly recommend the braised beef noodles (NT$130), whose generous amounts of tender and largely gristle-free meat come with noodles that are cooked to perfection. The spicy, scallion-infused broth is savory without being salty and the thin layer of oil found on most beef soups is largely absent here. As a result, you won’t feel weighed down after eating and the complimentary oolong tea was barely needed.
Compared to the beef soup, the broth for the wonton noodles is light, almost tasteless. The pork and scallop stuffing inside the dumplings doesn’t quite make up for this. For vegetarians, the noodles with sesame oil and soya sauce (NT$80) are a popular choice.
Address: 2, Ln 26, Pucheng St, Taipei City (台北市蒲城街26巷2號)
Telephone: (02) 2368-0986
Open: Daily from 11:30am to 10pm
Average meal: NT$150
Details: English and Chinese menu, credit cards not accepted
Huamei’s dim sum isn’t anything to write home about, but the prices are reasonable for what you get. I’ve tried the shrimp wrapped in rice noodles (NT$80 for three), crab roe and shrimp steamed dumplings (NT$80 for four) and “emerald” steamed vegetarian dumplings (NT$110 for eight).
Both the shrimp wrapped in rice noodles and the crab roe with shrimp are worth ordering for their copious portions of seafood. But the crab roe, which has a delicate flavor, should be eaten on its own (or at least be paired with something less robust than shrimp). The vegetarian dumplings of glass noodles, scallion and other vegetables were okay, but didn’t stand out.
Huamei is near the corner of Roosevelt Road (羅斯褔路) and Pucheng Street (蒲城街), and is easy to miss. Separated from the street by a terrace with all manner of patio furniture and plants, from the outside Huamei looks more like an up-scale coffee shop than a quaint restaurant. One warning: The plants seem to be an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, which have no trouble invading the restaurant’s interior.